ABTI-American University of Nigeria (AAUN) in Yola, eh?

So I'm compelled to add a preface t this post: I am in no way associated with AAUN, and I suspect that writing in the comments section of this post is not the best way to contact that University.

via Emeka Okafor I discovered this brand new University. It's a very interesting development for several personal reasons. First of all, my father started our family's history of study in US-style universities when he left just after the Biafran war to pursue Materials Engineering at the American University in Cairo (after the Biafran war made it impossible for him to take up a full-ride scholarship he'd earned at the University of California. He subsequently went to get his Ph.D. at Case Western University, Cleveland). He told me that he had been a fan of the VOA, and so he applied for American scholarships. When he missed the time window for UC, he took the next available scholarship, for the nearest US-Style University, which happened to be in Cairo.

Nigerian Universities have been traditionally British-style, which I personally prefer, with my limited experience of having attended one American-style and one British-style University.

The AAUN front page says:

AAUN is the first American-style University in sub-Saharan Africa. Our mission is to offer a world-class, American style education to students who do not wish to spend four years studying in the United States.

Well and good, but the "about" page says:

AAUN is intended to be the first world-class university in West Africa and will be one of the premier universities on the continent.

What the fuck? How dare they? Ask the employers of the countless products of West African universities pursuing professions across the globe whether their employees' Universities were not world class. West African has a very impressive history of Universities, and in their great ages, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN, which I attended) and University of Ibadan, just to mention two examples in Nigeria, were undoubtedly world class. Yes, many of these institutions have fallen on hard times, but the AAUN claim seems to ignore even their past achievements. It seems the colonial attitude is still alive and well.

One thing I will say is that universities such as UNN are more traditional Universities, rather than vocational in nature. I think this is usually a good thing, but in the present circumstances throughout much of West African, it makes sense to focus on vocational education, as AAUN does. We need to grow our professional class as quickly as possible. There might be a little shortfall in available opportunities for such training, but if we can keep our markets working properly, economic forces will find efficient use for them in time, as it did in India, for example. Worst case it will just increase the brain drain, but contrary to many others, I think that brain drain from West Africa is not an obviously egregious problem (or at least that it's not obviously worse than low educational attainment of natives).

Another reason for my interest in this announcement is that I lived in Yola, Nigeria for a couple of years growing up. My father lectured at the Federal University of Technology, Yola for a while in the mid-80s. Yola is, I think, an odd location for the first of any kind of University. It's a fairly remote and sleepy town in the unfashionable North East of the country. In any case, all the best to AAUN, and to those applying to study in the charter Spring 2006 term. I like the high-tech accoutrements that will apparently be standard on campus.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia